RedHawks win MAC title, top Bowling Green 49-27 on record arm of Ben Roethlisberger.
By Wire services
Published December 5, 2003
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Ben Roethlisberger threw touchdowns to four receivers Thursday, leading No.14 Miami of Ohio 49-27 over 20th-ranked Bowling Green in the MAC championship.
Roethlisberger set a title game record with 440 passing yards and became the second MAC quarterback to surpass 4,000 yards in a season. He led Miami (12-1, 9-0) to scores on its first four possessions of the second half.
"All I had to do was put it out there and they made the play," said Roethlisberger, who credited everyone but himself.
Roethlisberger, a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award given to the nation's top quarterback, has remained quiet about whether he will return to Miami next season. He's projected to be a top pick in the NFL draft if he comes out.
"I can't wait to play them when he's gone," coach Gregg Brandon said. "We had no answer for him. When we did pressure him, he eluded it and found receivers, and they ran past us all day."
Roethlisberger sealed the win with a 55-yard TD to Calvin Murray, who found a seam along the sideline. That put the RedHawks up 42-20 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was the first MAC title since 1986 for the RedHawks, who have not lost since the season opener at Iowa. Miami faces Louisville in the GMAC Bowl on Dec.18.
After the game, Bowling Green (10-3, 7-2) accepted a bid to play in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit on Dec.26.
The Falcons trailed 21-17 at the half, despite being outgained 306 to 172 yards. But P.J. Pope fumbled on the first two possessions of the second half, giving the RedHawks the ball inside Falcons territory each time.
Miami took advantage. Murray scored on a 1-yard plunge and Mike Smith ran 13 yards for the first of his two touchdowns, giving the RedHawks a 35-17 lead with 4:57 left in the third.
Roethlisberger, the conference's player of the year, threw four touchdowns for the third straight game and completed 26-of-35. The junior has 4,110 passing yards this year. Marshall's Byron Leftwich surpassed 4,000 twice in 2001 and 2002. Roethlisberger also broke Leftwich's 2001 MAC title game record of 421 yards.